Knoxville Solar America Cities Program Overview

PV array at Ijams Nature Center near downtown Knoxville. On-site interpretation will be improved with funding from the Solar America Cities program.

In March of 2008, the Department of Energy (DOE) named the City of Knoxville a partner in its Solar America Cities program. Despite currently low levels of solar technology deployment, Knoxville has great potential to lead the region in developing a sustainable solar infrastructure. Home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the University of Tennessee, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Knoxville is a hub of clean energy research and innovation. Knoxville’s Solar America Cities Program aims to engage the strengths of our project partners to increase solar electricity generation capacity by identifying and breaking down the barriers that have, up until now, stalled significant growth in demand for solar energy technologies.

Through the Solar America Cities Program, the City of Knoxville has been awarded $200,000 over a two-year period to help finance various initiatives developed to reduce barriers to local generation of solar power.  In support, TVA is matching this grant with $50,000 annually. DOE has also contributed $200,000 worth of technical assistance towards the program initiatives, and TVA and Knoxville Utility Board (KUB) have both pledged additional technical and staff assistance.

Ultimately, the City aims to achieve a sustainable solar infrastructure in Knoxville. The Solar America Cities partnership will jump start progress towards this goal with the following objectives:


Educated Citizens

Our series of free workshops are designed to teach citizens basic information on solar technologies and applications. Over 500 residents and business people have attended thus far and local solar installers have reported increased interest from participants.

Our program is helping create a new exhibit to accompany an existing 15KW solar array at Ijams Nature Center. Designed to both engage and entertain, the exhibit will teach older visitors how to be good consumers of solar technologies while allowing younger visitors to experience solar energy in an interactive way.

Pictures from previous workshops.

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Strong Local Markets

Green Professional Development classes at Pellissippi State Community College

The Knoxville Solar America Cities Program helped inspire the creation of Green Professional Development classes at Pellissippi State Community College. Classes on photovoltaics and solar hot water installation were offered online during spring 2009 semester and a comprehensive course curriculum for Solar Photovoltaics has been offered since fall 2009.

The Program also serves to identify local renewable energy companies and connect potential customers with helpful resources.

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Increased Visibility

Architectural drawing of the future Downtown Knoxville Transit Center, where a high-visibility PV array will be installed.

The new Downtown Transit Center will feature a highly visible photovoltaics system.  This system was designed with special attention to public perception – with semi-transparent panels and a minimally visible mounting structure.  This system will help inspire a new, positive image of solar.

In addition, both a photovoltaics and a solar hot water system will be installed at a LEED-Certified Knox Heritage historic home. Solar power will also be integrated in Community Development plans for affordable housing construction and renovation.

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Lasting Change

Installation of solar technologies is restricted in some districts due to historic zoning regulations.  Our solar America Cities team is working with community stakeholders to reform requirement to accommodate more solar installations while remaining sensitive to historic properties and zoning requirements.

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You can learn more details about Knoxville’s plans for utilizing the Solar America Cities funds in the application submitted to DOE. Download the Application in [PDF] format here, or find out more about the DOE Solar America Cities Program.